Classic Computer Magazine Archive Article from Compute! magazine

IBM Personal Computing

Donald B. Trivette


GATO is one of the most interesting games to come along for the IBM PC, PCjr, and compatibles in the last year. It's a strategy game that puts you in the captain's seat of a World War II Gato-class submarine. Your mission may be to rescue a downed pilot, resupply a friendly coast watcher, or sink an enemy fleet. Once you receive your orders, you must pilot your boat through enemy waters and around dangerous reefs using radar, charts, and the periscope—if you dare to risk detection.

Although GATO is billed as a submarine simulation, it's not a simulation like Microsoft's Flight Simulator. You won't actually learn to operate a sub or to navigate underwater. Nevertheless, there are ample controls—depth, speed, heading, fuel, battery, torpedo, periscope— to keep your fingers busy.

You won't master GATO in a few days—or even weeks. The level of difficulty is set by a program parameter: At level 0, where I play, Morse-code messages are translated into English and enemy ships leave a convenient trace on the patrol chart. (Even so, my record isn't good—I complete only half of my assigned missions.) At level 9 (for Annapolis graduates, I think), you'd better know Morse code and be able to make plots of enemy activity.

This isn't a game where you can shoot at everything in sight. Successfully completing the mission is the most important goal, and accomplishing that requires the use of strategy to survive.

GATO requires a PC with color/graphics adapter, 128K of RAM, and a color monitor, or a PCjr with a color monitor. It is produced by Spectrum HoloByte, Inc. ($39.95).

A Peek At A Sequel

The King's Quest series of adventure games has one of the largest followings of any entertainment program for the IBM, Whenever I write about King's Quest, I get lots of letters—some of them quite unique. (One lady wanted to give her husband the gnome's name for his birthday.) Anyway, someone on the inside has slipped me a copy of the design specifications and some memos between the designer and programmers for King's Quest III, which Sierra On-Line is working on for release in late fall. I won't spoil your fun by revealing too many secrets, but I'll drop some hints of what's to come in this eagerly awaited sequel. These notes also provide some insight into how a major adventure game is carefully planned and executed by a whole team of designers, artists, and programmers. It's almost like story-boarding a film script.

From the designer's notes: "I'm going to try to make KQ3 more difficult to solve…I'd like it to be able to do its own mapping, but Ken and Jeff will have to be talked into this...I would like to try to add more arcade-type action, but still retain the flavor of an adventure game." The notes also indicate that there will be a new routine to draw the screens because some players (including myself) are getting important clues by watching what is drawn last in a scene.

"Included in the documentation will be the magic spell book, Sorcery of Old." The notes mention numerous spells, including one to transform someone into a cat and another to brew up a storm, It also mentions an invisibility ointment made from toad spittle, and the new cast of characters: Medusa, a huge spider, bandits, pirates, and an abominable snowman who lives in the mountains and will drag you into his cave and devour you for dinner. The notes indicate that the best way to deal with the snowman is to use a protective spell.

Here is the designer's description of Room 25: "Ocean side. Looks like north Calif, coastline. All, part, or none of the town will be in this picture, depending on how you draw it. There will be a dock or pier going out into the ocean from the town. Later on in the game, there will be a pirate ship that is tied to the dock, The pirate ship will probably be two screens long. You can get ocean water from this room for a spell...I'm not sure yet. Maybe, we will see a pirate walking around on the deck while it is tied to the dock and his mates are in the tavern. Or maybe we'll see an old man sitting outside the tavern, or maybe a woman coming out of the store or something. Just to make the town look like it is inhabited."

The notes also indicate that Room 38 (scene 38) is inside the bandit's hideout, and that a bandit will always be there to protect a bin. What the bin contains is unclear.

If my Sierra On-Line contact, known as Deep Ego, can come up with more, I'll let you know.

Here's a tip for those of you who are running Microsoft's Flight Simulator on the IBM PCjr. On some TV sets the colors will fade in and out. This occurs only with version 2.11 or earlier, only on the PCjr, and only with some TV sets. Nevertheless, what looks like a hardware problem is really a bug in Flight Simulator. If you call your Microsoft customer service number, they have a fix.